Thursday, January 22, 2009

American Emmigrant

We met with an American who became an Australian citizen. He is an international businessman who works all over the world. Much of his work has an Australian connection, but often he is working with clients in, say, Japan, doing a deal with Brazil. They don't really care where he is based.

He became an Australian citizen because he and his family like it here, and wanted to have roots somewhere. He did not, as I had thought, marry an Aussie, but brought his family here.

It struck me later that he is the first American that I know personally who became a citizen of another country just because he wanted to. He didn't grow up in the other country, marry a local, or have a political beef with the United States government. He just chose another country.

Many people all over the world know people from who have chosen to be Americans. Centre College, deep in the American heartland, has quite a few immigrants on the faculty, on the staff, and in the student body.

It is the rare American, though, who knows an emigrant from the United States. It is so rare that it comes as a shock that someone would actually fully shift allegiance from the United States to another nation.

We study abroad to broaden our horizons. Meeting a US emigrant was an unexpected, but useful, kind of broadening for everyone in the class.


halifax said...

There are plenty of American ex-pats here who have either already become Canadians or are in the process. I suppose that it's easier to ramble across the border than to cross half of the earth if you want to get out of the US.

On a different topic, I don't know if a Centre term trip to Canada would actually count as foreign travel, but I now believe that it should (at least to Quebec).

Katie said...

I know a guy who renounced his U.S. citizenship to become a Taiwanese citizen. It was quite the big deal since it meant that he had to serve the mandatory two years in the Taiwanese army. He wrote a book about his experience as a white guy in the Taiwanese army.

When we left Taiwan 4 years ago, he was looking into getting his U.S. citizenship back so that he could return home. I know that he is still in Taiwan--I don't know if he changed his mind or decided that getting his citizenship re-instated was too much of a hassle.

Chairm said...

Here are some statistics:

Elizabeth Grieco, chief of immigration statistics at the U.S. Census Bureau, puts it bluntly: "We don't count U.S. citizens living abroad."

But if the government is not counting, others are. Estimates made by organizations such as the Association of Americans Resident Overseas put the number of nongovernment-employed Americans living abroad anywhere between 4 million and 7 million, a range whose low end is based loosely on the government's trial count in 1999. Focusing on households rather than individuals (and excluding households in which any member has been sent overseas either by the government or private companies), a series of recent Zogby polls commissioned by New Global Initiatives, a consulting firm, yielded surprising results: 1.6 million U.S. households had already determined to relocate abroad; an additional 1.8 million households were seriously considering such a move, while 7.7 million more were "somewhat seriously" contemplating it. If the data collected in the seven polls conducted between 2005 and 2007 are fairly representative of the current decade, then, by a modest estimate, at least 3 million U.S. citizens a year are venturing abroad. More interesting, the biggest number of relocating households is not those with people in or approaching retirement but those with adults ranging from 25 to 34 years old.

According to Robert Adams, the CEO of New Global Initiatives, the motives of relocators are almost as hard to pin down as the numbers. "The only Americans who understand what's going on are those living abroad," he says. "There is no movement, no leader. It's just millions of people making individual decisions to do it."

See US News [July 28, 2008]: A Growing Trend of Leaving America.

Gruntled said...

Living abroad, especially for work, is not at all the same as emigrating.

Chairm said...

Gruntled, living overseas for an extended period (such as a year) makes one an international migrant -- either an immigrant or an emigrant, depending on how you look at it (i.e. as the host country or as the country someone relocates from).

Yes, living overseas temporarily and short term is different from living abroad with indefinite or no plans of return to reside in the USA.

However, one can emigrate even without plans for a permanent relocation.

Plenty of countries allow dual citizenship and also the status of "permanent resident" for non-citizens. Both would be a class of emigrant.

Immigrants to Australia include both -- as well as those who gain Australian citizenship either through marriage or birth or dropping their old country for their new.

American citizens can become permanent residents of other countries and also hold dual citizenship. The latter is possible even if the person lives abroad temporarily - after having acquired dual citizenship.

Perhaps you were thinking more narrowly, ie. people who drop US citzenship?

* * *

The Zogby Survey was done for New Global Initiatives (NGI) and on their website they refer to American Emmigration in the more broad sense.

New Global Initiatives has completed a ground-breaking series of surveys of the American people on the subject of their relocation to other nations for periods in excess of two years for reasons other than their jobs, military service, or education.


Conducted over a period of nearly two years, NGI has effectively undertaken a longitudinal study of American emigration and we intend to update our statistics on a regular basis.

* * *

Here's an article by someone who interviewed the CO of NGI:

Chairm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chairm said...

In Australia the numbers of immigrants from other parts of the world make the numbers from the USA seem small.

However, according to the Australian Department of Immigration, the USA is 14th among the top 20 countries from which "settlers" have migrated between January 1999 and January 2009.

There were 21,980 American emigrants during that period.

That's more than from all European countries with the exception of the UK which is the 1st country on that list. China is a close 2nd and India a close 3rd.

Of the 21,980 American emigrants, 14,929 (67%) came in what the government calls the "family stream"; another 6,995 (32%) came in the "skill stream"; and just 8 (>1%) came in the humanitarian stream.

The department of immgration has a convenient report-generating tool on their website. It produces a chart and a table in each report.


I guess one could refine the statistics by the category of visa or entry permit. The US Census Bureau does not track emigrants. And it is very unlikely that most Americans would think themselves advantaged by renouncing their American citizenship. So the best estimate of American emigration would require aggregating US imigration in countries far and wide. That's a lot of work for someone with the motivation, time, contacts, and resources to pursue.

But the series of Zogby polls looks like it may be a good resource for the topic you brought up.

Gruntled said...

These are very interesting surveys of US emigrants. I had not thought about the retirement wave, but I see the logic of it - snowbirds retiring to Florida, taken to the next logical step.

The younger, skill-based economic migrants are who I had in mind. The 7000 settlers in Australia, who take Australian citizenship, are the real emigrants in this story. A drop in the bucket, but a drop, nonetheless.